“On my way to the workshop I was gathering leaves and grasses, I suddenly felt giddy, overwhelmed by the strength of the force of life – when I arrived at the workshop I got down to making a hat fast and furiously- how can I make a work wild and vigorous enough for you to catch that feeling?”
East Sussex-based Barbara Keal is on a mission to create hats for the whole world, inspired by real and imaginary animals. Her practice crosses boundaries between sculpture, craft, design and fashion effortlessly. Barbara’s hats are fêted by celebrated trend forecaster Li Edelkoort. Her commissions are numerous and varied: felt badger sporrans for vegan kiltmakers; hats for a BBC fairyland villain; and woodlands-themed accessories for Harvey Nichols fashion displays.
Keal’s work is an example of the extraordinary sculptural possibilities of the material. Felt is often used to replicate animals in puppets or toys, but Keal’s work has a rawness and reality to it. By wearing her creations we are encouraged to become another creature and explore our primal side.
Keal strives to create work that makes herself and those who experience her work feel fully alive. After spending several years creating live art in an effort to create this effect, she discovered felt making and describes how she loved the primitive physicality of the process. Keal uses only locally sourced sheep and alpaca fleece, choosing natural colours to create work that encapsulates all the qualities of the raw material, from soft and silky to coarse and tough.
Visit Barbara Keal‘s website.